Aug 04, 2021 Written by:Eric Born

Hands-on: the ROG Flow X13 transforms from ultraportable to ultra-powerful

Articles: Hands On
Article Tags: Hands On

Gaming laptops aren’t supposed to be this portable, but the lightweight and compact ROG Flow X13 has reset my expectations. Its powerful AMD Ryzen 9 5900HS CPU handles all my needs for content creation and everyday computing, and the surprisingly large battery tucked inside the slim, all-metal chassis frees me from outlets. And at the end of the day, I have a new favorite ritual: connecting the Flow X13 to the XG Mobile external GPU for desktop-class gaming.

After I click a single high-bandwidth connector into place, the Flow taps into the power of the top-of-the-line NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3080 Mobile GPU inside the XG Mobile. Since this external GPU is also a power adapter and a docking station, it simultaneously recharges the Flow X13 and docks it to my gaming monitor and favorite peripherals.

This one connection turns the highly portable ROG Flow X13 into a gaming and creation powerhouse. With both the Flow and the XG Mobile at my disposal, I have a flexible ultraportable laptop for on-the-go work that can turn into a high-end gaming rig back at my desk. It delivers great gaming experiences and boundless creativity no matter where life takes me.

ROG Flow X13 and ROG XG Mobile
  Where to buy (US): Where to buy (CA):
ROG Flow X13 + ROG XG Mobile  ASUS
Newegg
Best Buy
Best Buy
Canada Computers
Memory Express
ROG Flow X13 ASUS
Best Buy
Newegg
ROG XG Mobile  ASUS  

Living the eGPU dream

Some external GPUs (eGPUs) rival the size of full-fledged desktop PCs, so that’s where they live out their days: on a desk. The ROG XG Mobile is different. It’s a capable docking station when placed on a desktop, and it’s small enough to fit in my laptop bag if I need to take all of its power with me. At roughly 8” long by 6” wide, and only 1.2” thick, the XG Mobile is about the size of a compact book.

When it's on my desk, the XG Mobile powers my ROG Strix XG27AQM gaming monitor. This 27” display stands at the sweet spot of modern gaming. Its 2560x1440 resolution lets me enjoy detailed images and high frame rates all at once, and its fast 270Hz refresh rate and ultra-low 0.5ms GTG response time mean that I get fluid, blur-free animation even in fast-paced games. Through the DisplayPort connector on the XG Mobile, I can enjoy the tear-free gaming experience provided by NVIDIA G-SYNC compatibility.

ports

The XG Mobile also gives me another four USB Type-A ports to play with. I popped the wireless transceivers for the ROG Falchion and ROG Keris Wireless into two of those ports so I can use them from the moment that I connect the Flow X13 to the XG Mobile. There’s an RJ45 port for a wired LAN connection and an SD card reader, too.

full setup - 2

The XG Mobile is far more than an ordinary dock, though. When it’s connected to the Flow, I can play my games with the power of its NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3080 Mobile GPU. This beastly chip can draw up to 150W in the XG Mobile thanks to highly effective vapor-chamber cooling and upright form factor. An integrated kickstand lets the unit stand tall so that heat can rise naturally and exhaust through a top vent. All that cooling power keeps the chip cool over time so I can enjoy consistent performance over long gaming sessions.

The Flow X13 can tap more of the RTX 3080's graphics power thanks to our proprietary connector's superior bandwidth. Competing eGPUs that communicate through Thunderbolt 3 have, at best, four non-dedicated PCIe 3.0 lanes. Not all of that bandwidth is dedicated to communication between the host system and graphics card, potentially leading to lower gaming performance. The XG Mobile’s exclusive connector hooks up to eight dedicated PCIe 3.0 lanes from the Flow X13. This plentiful, dedicated bandwidth greatly reduces the potential performance bottleneck facing other eGPUs. To reserve all of this connector’s bandwidth for gaming glory, we pipe the I/O connections from the XG Mobile through a separate USB Type-C port with 10 Gbps of its own bandwidth.

Gaming excellence in any mode

All together, the ROG XG Mobile’s GeForce RTX 3080, efficient cooling solution, and high-bandwidth connector mean that I’m always just one click away from desktop-class gaming power. Time and again, the Flow X13 and XG Mobile proved that they can run with the big boys in the latest games.

Resident Evil Village

village-ss-2Image source: Gamesplanet

Ray-traced graphics are truly breathtaking and immersive, and few titles use them to greater effect than Resident Evil Village. Lady Dimitrescu’s castle looms over the ruined landscape. Prowling enemies lurk in every shadowy corner. With ray tracing enabled, light reflects naturally across glossy surfaces and murky waters. The lavish visuals, nightmarish environments, and building action made Village a nail-biting thrill ride that I couldn’t set aside until its thrilling conclusion.

village-2

To put the dynamic duo of the Flow X13 and XG Mobile to the test, I set the game to its Ray Tracing preset and played at the external ROG Strix XG27AQM’s native QHD resolution. This setup served up an 85.9 FPS average. As you can see from the tight range of frame rates over time in the graph above, that smooth performance kept hitches or stutters from distracting me as I evaded the prowling undead in the village.

Village truly showcases the value of playing at QHD or 4K. The game’s high-resolution textures are rich with detail that just doesn’t come out at 1080p. That detail heightened the realism―and the tension―of exploring the dilapidated shacks in the village, the obscene wealth of Castle Dimitrescu, and the claustrophobic horror of the doll house.

Doom Eternal

doometernal-ssImage source: Gamesplanet

The latest incarnation of Doom pushes the series to new heights of fast-paced action. Its combat is hectic, bloody, and strategic, and there’s no better way to play it than with a high-refresh-rate monitor and a PC that can keep up.

doometernal-2

The ROG Flow X13 and XG Mobile did more than just keep up with Doom Eternal’s fast-moving swarms of demons. Even though I played at 2560x1440, cranked the game up to its Ultra Nightmare preset, and enabled ray tracing, performance never dipped below 120FPS. DLSS' Performance mode helped to keep FPS high even with the graphics quality maxed out. The 169.8 FPS average frame rate was silky smooth on the ROG Strix XG27AQM. The sheer speed of this performance kept me in total control of each demonic encounter.

Metro Exodus PC Enhanced Edition

metroexodus-ssImage source: Gamesplanet

Metro games have always been known for cutting-edge graphics. Owners of the most recent entry got a pleasant surprise this spring with the launch of Metro Exodus PC Enhanced Edition. This version overhauls the lighting system with a fully ray-traced illumination pipeline and new ray-traced reflections. The effects are astonishingly good, even compared to the original Exodus, and the new edition is free for anyone with the base game.

metro-2

Since the new version also employs NVIDIA’s DLSS 2.0 tech, the game’s global illumination, realistic reflections, and murky shadows don’t come at the expense of performance. In fact, many reviewers report that Metro Exodus PC Enhanced Edition runs more smoothly than the original. On the ROG Flow X13 and XG Mobile, I enjoyed an 80.5 FPS average frame rate. I don’t have to choose between lifelike images and fluid performance in Metro. This powerful duo gives me both.

As a tense stealth shooter with lavishly detailed environments, Metro was a perfect showcase for these next-gen graphics effects. As I silently explored the dark ruins of Russian cities, I marveled at the realistic play of light from my flashlight and other sources. Light bounced as it should to fill interiors, and menacing shadows kept every scene tense.

Counter-Strike: Global Offensive

When it’s connected to the ROG XG Mobile, the ROG Flow X13 can draw on the top-of-the-line GeForce RTX 3080 for powerful gaming experiences. At times, though, I wanted to game when the full eGPU setup wasn’t convenient. Thanks to the Flow X13’s GeForce GTX 1650 internal GPU, all I needed to hop into a few rounds of my favorite esports games was the laptop’s compact 100W power adapter.

csgo-2

The combination of the lightweight Flow X13 and its petite 3” x 3” x 1” power adapter makes for as portable a gaming rig as you can ask for. The GeForce GTX 1650 is no slouch, especially in esports games. In CS:GO, it delivered a 146.7 FPS average frame rate. That’s a lot of gaming performance in a go-anywhere package. Other GPU options for the ROG Flow X13 include the new GeForce RTX 3050 Ti. Grab one of these to give yourself access to RTX technologies like DLSS no matter where you go.

Civilization VI

In some places, mouse-and-keyboard gaming just isn’t possible. I’ve yet to encounter an airline tray wide enough to accommodate my mousing hand, for example. Even in those circumstances, the ROG Flow X13 lets me settle back with a great game. Its 360° hinge lets me flip the screen all the way around into tablet mode and play compatible games with the touchscreen.

civIn-game screenshot source: Gamesplanet

Civilization VI is one of my favorite games to play when I’m on a trip or curled up on the couch. There’s something satisfying about tapping one of my units, dragging my finger to a nearby hex, and watching it obediently carry out my orders. Given the complexity of the simulation, it’s remarkable how intuitive and fun it is to play with nothing more than my fingers. NVIDIA’s BatteryBoost feature makes sure I can play for just one more round—or just another hundred—before recharging the battery. It keeps the game running at a stable yet power-sipping frame rate so that I can enjoy the longest gaming session possible away from an outlet.

Lightweight, travels anywhere

Ideas for new creative projects come in the most unexpected places. Sometimes, I wake up after a vivid dream and need to capture its feeling before it fades away. Other times, I’ll hear a snippet of a song and get inspired with a lyric or melody of my own.

Whenever inspiration strikes, I need to find a quiet space to get my ideas down. The ROG Flow X13 makes that easy. As a 13” laptop, it’s no problem to fit it in my backpack or into the slim ROG satchel that’s included in the box. Since it’s a mere 2.87 lbs, it doesn’t weigh me down when I want to slip out of the house and find an isolated spot at the local state park, library, or coffee house.

tablet mode - outdoors

Once I’ve gotten away from distractions, the Flow X13 gives me plenty of options for how to get my ideas down. I can use the included stylus to put together a storyboard for my next video, sketch out ideas for an animation, or map out the plot of a screenplay. The laptop’s 360° hinge lets me flip the display all the way around so it’s comfortable to draw or write on the screen.

Once I get into my creative flow, there’s no telling how long I’ll be absorbed in the project. The ROG Flow X13 gives me such good battery life that I don’t have to worry about running out of juice before I run out of creative energy. On a recent morning, I undocked the notebook from the ROG XG Mobile at 8:30am. Between the web browsing, email, and work projects that usually occupy my morning routine, I used the Flow nearly constantly until lunch time.

open-outdoors

By the time I took the laptop along for an afternoon walk in the local park, it still had plenty left in the tank, and it powered through my afternoon meetings and writing schedule with nary a fuss. It didn’t give me a low battery warning until well after dinner—when I was already thinking that it was about time to plug the Flow X13 into the XG Mobile to play a game or two. Had I needed to remain afield, the Flow X13’s support for USB Type-C charging would let me extend its time away from an outlet even further with a compatible power pack.

The Flow X13’s all-day battery life frees me up to write, sketch, and play whenever, wherever. Its lightweight, compact frame makes it an unobtrusive companion out in the woods, on an airplane, or down at the local coffee shop. Inspiration doesn't usually strike when I’m sitting at my desk, so the portability of the Flow X13 lets me follow through on my best creative ideas no matter where I find them.

Creative power that travels

Quick notes, sketches, and pages of lyrics are an important part of my creative process. When it comes time to turn those initial ideas into finished projects, I need real processing power. The Flow X13’s AMD Ryzen 9 5900HS CPU gives me the performance I need to create and export professional-quality projects quickly.

In the 25 years that I’ve been playing guitar, nothing has transformed my musical process more than a home studio. With little more than a USB audio interface, a good headset, and free software, I can turn my musical ideas into collaborative projects with other musicians simply by walking downstairs.

music setup - 2

I’ve learned that I can’t use just any PC for music recording. I need an agile CPU that can keep latency low enough for monitoring. I need plenty of ports for my mixing gear, and I can’t have fan noise in the background of my recordings. The ROG Flow X13 and XG Mobile check all these boxes. The Ryzen 9 5900HS has a max boost clock of 4.6GHz, so it offers the snappy performance I need when I hit the record button. The XG Mobile’s plentiful connectivity lets me hook up my audio interface, keyboard MIDI controller, second display, keyboard, and mouse. And between the Flow X13’s efficient cooling system and fine-grained controls in Armoury Crate, I can get all the performance I need from the system without fan noise.

music setup

When it’s time to edit a video to go with my latest project, the Flow X13 and XG Mobile have me covered. The SD card reader integrated into the XG Mobile gives me quick access to the media from my camera. Editing a project with high-resolution footage can eat up a lot of CPU resources, but the Ryzen 9 5900HS’s eight cores and 16 threads are up to the task. For faster exports, I can enable Turbo Mode in Armoury Crate to harness the full power of the CPU so that I can get back to work quickly.

bags

What’s most remarkable about the ROG Flow X13 and XG Mobile is that they don’t limit me to working in my studio. I can pack up the entire system in one laptop bag for on-location recording and editing. My father has been playing acoustic guitar for longer than I’ve been alive, and I’ve been keen to record some of his music. With the PC and recording equipment in one bag and my camera and lighting gear in another, I was able to bring everything I needed to his house to record and edit a video that my family will enjoy for many years to come—all without a sore shoulder after.

ROG Flow X13 + ROG XG Mobile Bundle
Model GV301QH-DS96 + GC31S
MSRP $2,999.98 USD
$3,999.99 CAD
Availability (US) ASUS
Newegg
Best Buy
Availability (CA) Amazon
Best Buy
Canada Computers
Memory Express
ROG Flow X13
Model GV301QH-DS96 GV301QE-ZG13
CPU Ryzen 9 5900HS
Display 120Hz 1920x1200 100% sRGB
GPU GeForce GTX 1650 GeForce RTX 3050 Ti
Memory 16GB LPDDR4X
Storage 1TB SSD
I/O ROG XG Mobile interface
1x USB 3.2 Gen 2 Type-A
2x USB 3.2 Gen 2 Type-C
1x audio combo jack
1x HDMI 2.0b
Battery 62 Wh
Size 299 x 222 x 15.8mm
1.3kg
MSRP $1,499.99 USD
 
$1,499.99 USD
$1,999.99 CAD
Where to buy (US) ASUS
Best Buy
Best Buy
Walmart
Where to buy (CA) Newegg Best Buy
ROG XG Mobile
Model GC31S
GPU GeForce RTX 3080
I/O ROG XG Mobile Interface
4x USB 3.2 Gen 1 Type-A
1x HDMI 2.0
1x DisplayPort 1.4
1x RJ45
1x SD card reader
Size 55 x 208 x 209mm
1kg
MSRP $1,499.99 USD
Where to buy (US) ASUS

Ultimate flexibility

The ROG Flow X13 and ROG XG Mobile finally let me live the eGPU dream that's always felt like it's been just around the corner until now. With this system, I have a laptop that’s portable when I need it to be, and our dedicated high-bandwidth connector means it can be docked for maximum power whenever I want. By their powers combined, I have high-end gaming performance, the convenience of an ultraportable notebook, and all the tools I need for elite gaming and demanding content creation.

logo

Whether I’m evading vampires in Resident Evil Village, sketching out an idea at the local state park, or recording a new song at the perfect location for the companion music video, the Flow X13 and XG Mobile travel with me and deliver the performance I need. This innovative system empowers me to break out of my confines and game and create wherever inspiration strikes. For a system that has power, flexibility, and portability, upgrade to the ROG Flow X13 and XG Mobile and experience true freedom to pursue your passions wherever you go.

Articles: Hands On
Article Tags: Hands On
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